I began today with a family lunch outing with Brian’s Peruvian family. Sunday lunch is a large family affair and is more or less an expectation. If you decide not to go, you have to have a really compelling reason or it is taken as an insult. Off we drove toward the little town about 5 miles down the road, Banos del Inca, an old Incan post with wonderful thermal baths that are fed by hot springs. Brian and his wife Cecy sat in the back of the car with me with Amara on their lap. It made me think about our laws and how you wouldn’t be caught dead with a baby out of a car seat in the U.S. There are no car seats here, and it is a common site to see a father on his small moto (motorcycle) with the baby in front of him next to the handlebars. This is just the way people do things here.
So, my rice with vegetables took center stage. How would this be prepared? Did I want them with meat? Did I want pork? Did I want fish? Did I want seafood? I answered every question with “Just rice and vegetables please.” But serious disbelief continued “Nothing else? Nothing?” No, nothing else. Rice and veggies . Surrounding tables began listening in also and giving their advice. Rice and veggies did end up coming successfully which amazed me, since pretty much more than half of the time it will come with something else that they thought I should eat with the rice and veggies.
After our meal, I decided to do the absolutely coolest thing you can do in Cajamarca on Sunday—go to the “mall.” Now, the mall was constructed in 2006 after I had returned to the U.S. from living here, so when I saw it for the first time a year ago, I was in disbelief. Think about the strangeness in combining Incan tradition with a small but modern mall? The mall essentially is a large warehouse building on the outside with a typical mall store layout inside. The hottest thing about the mall is the escalator. People come from fields afar to ride the escalator. Imagine people who had worked in the fields their entire lives who now walk inside a mall to ride an escalator?! The meshing of two worlds is very distinct and palpable in a very nonsensical kind of way. The campesinos (traditional folks) that do come to the mall simply walk around in awe, trying to understand a world that is completely foreign to them. I walked right by a group of campesinos studying the escalator as they watched me mount this metal stairway with ease. I looked back down as I was carried further away from them, and it kind of seemed symbolic to me as our cultures moved further away from one another.
looking up to the heights
bathed in pale fluorescent light
the grinding metal monster
to lift them to the highlands of consumption
they stare wide-eyed
to “where the wild things are”
a line of more than fifty anxious people
with cracked sandaled feet
bright layered skirts
sunbeaten campesino hats
deciding timidly if they will mount this silver-toothed beast
wondering how their fields of potatoes
exist in this same world
they step cautiously for their turn
as the line grows
there is an empathy of patience and fear
Change scales upward before them
will make them different
by the knowing.
and the world changes.
To your own rejuvenation for this week of discovery, MM